Earlier this year, LA duo The Molochs released their debut record, the indie-folk tinged ‘America’s Velvet Glory’ via Innovative Leisure. Drawing on Doors-esque keyboard riffs, jangling guitar and a breakneck drumming pace – The Molochs introductory is a thrilling and thoughtful beginning for a duo with plenty of promise.
If the album feels like you’re travelling through the US in a beat-up old car, and casually tuning in and out of a dozen different radio stations – well, that’s kind of intentional. The literary influences, predominantly beat writers, proved vital to the lifeblood of the record. Here, Lucas Fitzsimmons (singer/guitarist) dissects the key literary influences behind the stunning album.
The novel Ask the Dust and some of the collection Wine of Youth have a style of language that goes beyond literary technique and form. Fante writes in plain language and reading these titles influenced me to do the same.
There’s a directness in the way he expresses himself, his feelings, his raw thought and he writes like a friend writing you a letter or talking to you on your porch, it gets across – a reader doesn’t have to have any pre-existing knowledge of literature to understand what he is saying. I liked the human element to this and found it difficult not to carry it along with me in my writing process. I wanted to clear away all the fogginess of overindulgent vocabulary, etc.
Blues, Folk, Country
The theme of plain language is in this category as well. I was always very affected by the strength and intensity of expression in American folk music. How, in sometimes very few words, so much can be communicated about the state of someone’s emotions, and even larger commentary about the state of society can be made in these very sparse, slick ways.
While it seems simpler, it is actually a lot more challenging to write this way because each word has to weigh more You have to write something that really can give you shivers. It’s not even about making grand statements or arguments about the world or politics or anything like that, it’s just about saying something that reveals some level of humanity, even if it’s a simple observation.
The Beat Generation
It’s hard to say anything about Beat writing that hasn’t already been said a million times. It feels cliche to even bring it up. I don’t even think that Ginsberg and the rest of them really invented that style of writing, I think they updated things that past writers had begun to do. Whitman’s Leaves of Grass about 100 years prior to the Beat Generation is a really good example of that. There it is again, the directness of language, the stripping away of dreary textbook technique.
It really does give you a spark. A burst of energy. There was a movement of that in Buddhism when they started to realise it had gotten too scholarly – that’s when they started smacking each other with sticks to snap out of that over-intellectual dullness. They wanted to feel alive. Ginsberg and Kerouac and those achieved the same thing, and when I learned about them in college it did the same to me. I think if anything they inspired me to live and think in a way that is always hungry, always looking for the greatest satisfaction and not settling for the life that is handed to you as a child.
The older you get, if you’re lucky, you get to choose how to live, and you get to choose to blow the whole thing up. We should all smack each other with sticks from time to time.
America’s Velvet Glory is out now via Innovative Leisure
London, The Shacklewell Arms (May 22)
The Montague Arms, London (23)